Coast ventures to the farthest-flung reaches of the British Isles. Nick Crane joins the locals on the Isles of Scilly as they try to wade from island to island.
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Coast is home.
Home to explore the most endlessly fascinating shoreline in the world -
The quest to discover surprising, secret stories
from around the British Isles continues.
This is Coast.
Standing on the brink, we dream of going beyond.
Hoping to reach the magical meeting point of sea and sky.
Heading out along natural causeways.
And man-made walkways.
Leaving the land behind lifts our spirits.
Out here, different rules apply.
If you ever wanted proof
that people who live out on the edge do things a bit differently,
this is it.
For those who dare to take the plunge, adventure awaits.
We're here to explore Life Beyond the Edge.
I'm on a mission to reach the most westerly inhabited spot in England.
Beyond Land's End,
I'll discover a lost kingdom of myth and legend.
The team are pushing their limits, too.
Down on our southern shore,
Coast newcomer and social historian Ruth Goodman
is in search of a lost way of life.
I've got a photograph here from the 1960s.
And this tough little chappie with his donkeys is Clifford Gosling,
he was the last of the Branscombe cliff farmers.
On our north-west frontier,
Mark discovers how Brunel's mightiest ship conquered the Atlantic,
connecting continent to continent with 2,000 miles of telegraph wire.
This is the story of how the Great Eastern wired Britain to America.
Beyond mainland Scotland,
we venture out to abandoned isles,
in search of sheep gone wild.
And men who must tame them.
Andy Torbet signs on as a sea shepherd.
They're a lot stronger, I think, than your average sheep,
and not always the most co-operative either.
My own adventure begins where the mainland stops -
I'm heading to the Isles of Scilly.
Land's End isn't actually the end of England.
28 miles beyond,
this beautiful archipelago beckons.
The ride out to the Isles of Scilly is a stunning voyage.
There are five inhabited islands to choose from.
The ferry comes into the largest, St Mary's.
This is just the beginning of my journey.
I'm heading out to the very edge of the Isles of Scilly,
as far west as you can go in England.
I want to discover the attraction of life beyond Land's End.
One immediate appeal is that the daily routine just isn't so routine.
-Have you ever dropped one in the water, Andy?
-No, I haven't, no.
Andy Smethurst is a postie with a rather unusual route.
He's a vital link to the mainland,
a role he's very happy to deliver.
It's the best place.
-This is your work run, isn't it?
-It is, yeah.
In a small boat.
It's a great job, I love it.
What's it like in winter?
Bleak. It... Rough, cold, wet.
But it's still usually a lot warmer than...
I go and see my parents in Devon,
and there's sometimes about eight degrees difference.
Right, I'm going to have to get on. All right. Are you holding on?
Yes, I'm holding on tight.
Andy can't afford to hang about.
Twice a day he must complete a 15-mile route around five islands.
But I'm getting dropped off with the first delivery,
to continue my quest on foot.
I'm in search of people who live life on the edge.
I'm on the island of St Martin's, this one here,
but I want to get to this island, Bryher,
the most westerly inhabited spot in the whole of England,
so I've got a bit of island-hopping to do.
But no more boats for me.
I want to walk the walk of those that enjoy life beyond the edge,
and today I'm in luck.
There's an exceptionally low tide,
so the locals take the rare opportunity
to stride through the sea from island to island.
I've done some pretty strange walks in my life,
but this is the most bizarre.
The islanders have been doing this for as long as anyone can remember.
It's scheduled for the lowest tide in September,
when the water's at its warmest.
But not that warm,
and I soon find out why they need shallow water.
This might look like a rather enjoyable Caribbean stroll,
but there's a really strong tide pulling through here,
it's hard work.
We can't hang around.
It's a race to make it between the islands.
The land I'm on is living on borrowed time.
Soon the sea will surge in to reclaim its domain.
The tide's really starting to rip in here now,
so I've got to get my skates on.
This is biblical - I'm just waiting for the waters to part!
That was absolutely wonderful.
The last bit of wading was neck deep
so we just made it, before it was too late,
before the tide came in and took out the entire channel.
This is a wonderfully weird water world. Here, in the eternal waltz
between land and sea, swirl ancient tales of a lost kingdom.
Later, when the tide ebbs again, I'll be exploring that landscape
of myth and legend revealed offshore.
Life beyond the edge of the mainland offers unique opportunities
that go-getters have embraced on the south coast.
Near Folkestone, engineers dug deep
to profit from going beyond the Channel.
At Sandbanks, they sell spectacular sea views.
But over generations, some have seen an opportunity
to harvest the sea and the soil.
The people who worked here at Branscombe
were both fishermen and farmers.
Somehow they scratched a living on the steep slopes of these cliffs.
Their lost way of life has got Ruth Goodman intrigued.
Stood here you get a real feeling for Britain coming to an abrupt end,
but for some people this was the start of the day's work.
I've got a photograph here from the 1960s, and this tough little chappie
with his donkeys is Clifford Gosling, known locally as Cliffie,
which is really appropriate,
because he was the last of the Branscombe cliff farmers.
Cliffie was born in 1889. For over 60 years he cut a solitary figure,
fishing in the morning, cultivating crops in the afternoon.
Cliffie was the last man standing
from a proud community of subsistence farmers.
Now I want to discover what it's like to toil beyond the edge.
They made do with poor soil, sloping at a precipitous angle,
the residue from landslips.
The cliff farmers' plots were known locally as "plats".
This was Cliffie's plat.
Oh, wow, what a view!
This is really farming on the edge, isn't it?
The view may be good. The land isn't.
But canny locals found a way to make this lofty perch pay off.
Fishing had been the main industry in Branscombe,
but it was unreliable.
They needed a back-up and so looked inland.
On the cliff face they could farm a variety of crops
all within sight of the sea.
That was the life Cliffie Gosling clung on to until the end.
Cliffie is long gone,
but his son Alan knows how to eke a living from surf and turf.
He's returning to the plat with his family.
This is Grandad Cliffie, this is back in the 1920s.
And he's with two of his donkeys.
Oh, he does look a hard-working sort of a man, doesn't he?
-Cliffie and Granny.
-Oh, she's got her best on.
It's right down on the beach and they're sitting in the boat.
He used to stand every night and look out to sea
before he came home with the donkeys.
-That's just down there.
-It was quite a hard life, I think.
A couple of times they had landslips here and he lost his garden,
so that was a bit of a disaster for him!
Well, you never knew when you came to work whether your plat... the ground would still be there.
This is all slipping all the time, the cliffs here.
'Alan's in his 90s now,
'but as a lad he did jobs for Dad, like collecting seaweed.'
-What's that you got there?
-Oh, for gathering?
-Yes, yes, we used to cut it off the rocks.
It's like a little tiny billhook.
Quick as we could before the tide come in.
Once the tide come in you still had to start loading then
and whip it up into the beach, we'd unload it and go back for the rest
and gradually bring it up the cliff, you know.
I can see it still fits in your hand.
You don't forget.
Part fisherman, part farmer, Cliffie used seaweed
as a way of fertilising his land.
To find out more about how sea complemented soil,
I'm meeting John Hughes, the last fisherman left in Branscombe.
-Can you remember the plats?
-Oh, yeah. Further down this way more.
Cliffie Gosling was the last one down there.
He taught me a lot about different things, about seaweed, what you can do with seaweed.
Where is the best place for seaweed round here?
Down there where it's flat, where they used to send the donkey out,
and one of 'em cut it, and then the donkey used to take it up
and the other one'd take it out of the panniers.
Time to see how Cliffie cut his seaweed fertiliser.
I've been told fresh kelp was highly prized.
To be honest, in the height of summer when it's a beautiful day, this is a really fun job.
I think it might be rather different in the middle of November in the freezing cold.
Once Cliffie had his seaweed, he needed to get it up a 500ft cliff.
He had beasts to bear the burden.
Enter Ginny and Smart, his beloved donkeys.
And I've got my own work buddy, too.
Hello, George. You going to give me a hand?
'Having harvested the bounty of the sea, Cliffie put his kelp to work improving the poor soil.'
This whole piece was dug by hand on a regular basis,
fertilised with seaweed.
These blokes were really scratching a living,
on land that couldn't really be used for anything else,
not suitable for big-scale farming, you couldn't get a plough down here.
These plots may be precarious,
but at least they're warmed by the sea in winter.
The farmers selected crops to make the most of this frost-free zone,
as Sue Dymond knows.
Potatoes were the mainstay and the variety was Epicure,
which they pronounced "apicure",
but all along this coast that was the variety that they grew.
Branscombe Teddies. They always called them teddies,
and they were marketed as such, and the cry used to go up, "Teddies, Branscombe Teddies for sale."
Really? And you'd have to know that that meant taters.
Yes, but all the local people would know that they called them teddies.
-Branscombe Teddies, yes.
They didn't eat them themselves, only the kind of reject ones.
They had to get them to market to sell them,
and the money they made saw them through the winter, alongside other jobs.
-Bought the bread, paid the rent.
Plats were passed on from father to son and that was how it was,
it was very hard to work your way in if... if you didn't already have a plat,
and the end of the plats was when the sons didn't want to do it.
It was the 1960s and it was more or less all ended along this coast at that time.
By the Swinging Sixties, Cliffie had his own Flower Power revolution.
He ended his days selling blooms to the tourists.
The cunning combination of fishing and farming
that kept generations going through good and bad times
was gone with the sea breeze.
The cliff men and their donkeys managed to carve a life along here, on this edge of land.
I mean, it must have been pretty tough at times, but you can see that there would be compensations.
Caught between the fat of the land and the bounty of the sea,
it does have its attractions.
There's evidence of how we like to live beyond the edge
all around our coast.
Seaside piers reaching from the shore.
For years we've built these walkways into the sea,
peninsulas of pleasure that prompt us to push the boundaries
and reach into the unknown.
Out here we're free to reinvent ourselves,
as they know in Southwold.
Nowadays, piers might seem a little long in the tooth,
but here a maverick machine maker is re-inventing traditional attractions.
I'm Tim Hunkin, I'm an engineer and I'm also a cartoonist.
The last ten years, I've been making machines for my amusement arcade,
The Under The Pier Show, and I love it.
This is my arcade. It's all homemade, mostly by me.
You can take a dog for a walk, you can enter the mind of a fly.
-Where is that damn fly?!
This is one of the most popular machines at the moment, you have to hit the bankers.
It's really difficult to make the hammers last
more than a couple of weeks.
I've made machines all my life,
but about ten years ago I had a bit of a breakthrough.
It finally became possible to add video, so I could finally have
little movies as part of my machines, and this was really exciting.
Bringing video into my arcade had a sort of strange parallel
with 100 years ago.
In 1894, Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb
and all sorts of things, introduced the Kinetoscope.
This was a coin-operated movie player, and it was the first time
that people could see proper movies in arcades.
As people had never seen a moving...a movie before,
they were happy to just watch anything that moved.
One of the reels was just a man sneezing.
Some of them seem quite bizarre. I mean, the boxing cats...
You might think it's cruel but nobody was shocked by it at the time.
There was a continuous loop of film that looped backwards and forwards inside the machine,
giving a movie that lasts about 20 seconds.
It was influential, if nothing else, because the size of the film,
and the spacing of all the perforations,
stuck, and became the standard for 35mm film.
I've come to the model village in Great Yarmouth
to see one of the descendants of Edison's Kinetoscope -
They're basically just like flip books.
..there are 840 cards on this reel,
..and when you put the money in, the drum rotates.
This is a good example,
because most of the subjects involved scantily dressed girls,
and obviously some people were quite shocked by this.
Erm, in 1907 there was a case
involving the display of obscene materials
involving four Mutoscope titles.
One was called What The Butler Saw. This is the name that stuck,
and since then Mutoscopes have been known as What The Butler Saw Machines.
People come on a pier to have fun. I don't think there's anywhere else
that people would be quite so eager to do silly things
like lie on an exercise bed while everybody's watching them,
take a fibreglass dog for a walk
or cross a motorway with a Zimmer frame anywhere else.
Preserving the traditions of life beyond the edge
is a challenge all around our shores.
On the west coast of Scotland, old ways of working have been steadily eroded.
Slate miners quarried away at these islands for generations,
but eventually the industry ate itself up.
Others are determined to keep ploughing a lonely furrow,
working with their livestock, making the most of a marginal existence.
An age-old lifestyle still survives on the Isle of Lewis.
Andy Torbet is in search of the sea shepherds.
The folk of the Western Isles must turn their hands to many trades.
It's no surprise to find a fishing harbour, but the men I'm off to see
aren't after catching fish. They want much bigger beasts - sheep.
Here on Lewis, rearing sheep is an offshore enterprise.
Uninhabited isles with steep cliffs make perfect natural pens.
You can put the flock out here and forget all about them.
A style of farming that's as old as the hills.
But I'm here to see one of the new boys.
Sandy Granville spent 25 years as a barrister in London,
then he swapped sharp suits for woolly fleeces.
Now I'm signing on for a tour of duty as a sea shepherd.
-Nice to see you.
Sandy, I didn't expect to be meeting some shepherds on a pier side.
-Where are the sheep?
-The sheep are all on the island over there,
only you can't see any of them just at the moment,
but they're all there in ones and twos and threes, all over that hill,
probably a lot of them up in the... up in the mist at the top,
and they're really wild. These are not sheep as...
-you know them.
-As we know it!
'If the sheep are intimidating, then so are the shepherds,
'a close-knit clan of Gaelic speakers.'
MEN SPEAK GAELIC
'Sandy's family were from Lewis,
'but it's taken him years to earn his spurs with the sheep men.'
What was it like coming into this community from the outside?
The people on the hills aren't always so keen to have newcomers,
cos nobody wants complete incompetents,
and of course as a beginner that's just what you are, so they..
To start with it's rather difficult,
they don't tell you when the sheep are going to be gathered cos they don't want you there.
'The sheep we're after have spent a year living alone
'beyond the edge, running wild on the island of Seaforth.
'Our mission is to round them up for market.
'Everyone seems to know their place - except me.
'As soon as we arrive, the shepherds take off.'
'The plan was to split up and stay in sight.'
'That's a bit tricky in the fog.
'Soon I'm alone, just like the sheep.
'No sign of them or my guides.'
Obviously the shepherds know this land like the back of their hands,
so we've only just started, but because the mist closed right down...
I might have mislaid myself already.
But I think I heard whistling over in that direction
so I'm going to crack on.
'No sheep, but a familiar figure emerges through the mist.'
-I lost you for a bit, Sandy.
-How are you doing, mate? Mist is...
Sometimes you can see, and sometimes you can't.
It's quite a wild, rugged placed. How do the sheep cope out here?
They've been bred to it. They're Lewis Blackfaces - love this, and they thrive on it.
So why keep them on an island at all?
You know they're here. You're going to find them if they're hiding behind a rock.
Do you ever lose any?
Well, you sometimes don't get them all in the gather.
If we get them all today it will be a miracle.
It's a bit tricky in the mist, I expect one or two sneaked past us.
'I think it's more than a few that have sneaked past me.
'Fluffy white fleeces in a world of fog?
I've not seen a sheep yet at all.
I have seen one sheepdog somewhere down there
and I can just make out one of the shepherds through the mist.
'And then, he's gone again.
'I could do with a sheepdog to round up the shepherds.
'When the mist does lift, it's clear they've been busy
'while I've been looking for them.'
'The sheep are being sorted, some for market, some for shearing.
'With no electricity, they have to be clipped by hand.'
'Have I got the knack?'
I think you must have a bit of crafting blood in you.
It's just coming naturally to you.
They're much kind of wilder than your normal sheep.
-They're wild animals really.
-They don't have a great deal to do with people.
This is real freedom food, but it's always been a hard life,
it's never been easy, no more easy or difficult now than it ever was.
'The ones staying get a once-over, ready for another year alone.
'The ones going for mutton get a boat ride, but they don't seem too keen.'
Hold on, hold on, hold on.
HE SPEAKS GAELIC
They're much more feisty than I think you'd normally get.
They've got a fair amount of power as well, they just run up and down the mountain free the whole year around,
so they're a lot stronger, I think, than your average sheep, and not always the most co-operative either.
'To persuade them, you've got to get hands-on...and legs.'
'Negotiating the slippery rocks on a sheep is as hard as it looks.
'I'd rather ride a quad bike than a quadruped!
'We're cutting it a bit close with the tide, but after a final tussle
'to get it off the rocks, the last boatful of sheep leaves the island.
'For the ones staying, it's back to freedom.'
Off they go, that's them back to their hill.
MAN SPEAKS GAELIC
'But what does the future hold for the sea shepherds?'
This may be the last generation that you'll see working out here.
That's why they're an endangered species,
there's not many of them left.
Because they're not young, these chaps, and who's coming next?
I suspect when...when we've finished there'll be no sheep on these hills.
'It's a stark assessment of a hard way of life beyond the edge
'that could soon disappear.
'When the boats of the sea shepherds will be seen no more.'
I'm on a journey,
far beyond Land's End to the very edge of the Isles of Scilly.
Bathed in clear blue water, warmed by the Gulf Stream,
these sandy shores look and feel more like the Caribbean.
The Tropical Gardens on Tresco
thrive in a frost-free environment.
No need for a greenhouse.
Exotic plants bloom in the open air,
not hiding behind glass.
The soil's wrapped in its blanket of balmy water.
Out here, boundaries are blurred
between land and sea.
The edges become fuzzy.
Hidden away in the lush greenery,
there's more evidence
of the importance of the sea to these islands.
Extraordinary. It's a sanctuary for the spirits of lost ships.
These figureheads look back to times long ago
and age-old trade routes.
Thousands of years ago, back in the ancient times,
traders didn't see the Isles of Scilly as the end of Britain,
but as the beginning.
Look at the map with Bronze Age eyes.
For ancient Greece to make bronze,
they needed tin.
Coming to collect tin from Cornwall,
merchants may well have stopped off on the Isles of Scilly.
Out there is the submerged home
of some of our Bronze Age ancestors,
a lost land that is rarely revealed.
I just need to wait for the tide to ebb.
At this exceptionally low tide,
the seabed that was once land is exposed.
People used to live out here
before the water level rose
thousands of years ago.
Now I can walk back to the Bronze Age.
My guide is historian Amanda Martin.
What would this landscape have looked like in the Bronze Age?
This area here, which is the Tresco Channel,
would have been an area of tidal swamp
fringed with the salt marshes,
a place of very primitive cultivation.
What evidence have you got that they were farming down here
on what is now sand and a tidal channel at high tide?
We've got some evidence of boundary walls, field boundaries.
They wouldn't have been the sophisticated fields
we can see from the modern era. They would have been far more rudimentary.
So compared to these very neat dry stone walls behind us,
the walls we're talking about back in the Bronze Age
-were much more crude.
From the ground, you can see tantalising lines of stones.
But from the air, you begin to notice man-made rock boundaries,
unnaturally straight lines
just visible in the chaos of debris.
These walls are what remains of ancient farmland.
Once, the separate Isles of Scilly were joined together
in one large land mass.
What's now the edge of these islands
was once their heart.
The farms were lost as the water level went up
when ice melted millennia ago.
This journey out to the edge of our isles
is a voyage back thousands of years in time.
We've gone beyond written history.
What happened to the people out here as sea levels rose
was passed on by storytellers down through the generations
and remembered as myths and legends.
The legend has it that once upon a time,
the Isles of Scilly were connected to Cornwall.
What's now the Atlantic
was supposedly the lost kingdom of Lyonesse.
A mythical world
which may have given rise to tales of the Round Table and its knights.
Some say Lyonesse is the resting place of King Arthur himself.
If that great kingdom did exist,
the most westerly tip of the Isles of Scilly
would have actually been Land's End.
And that's where I'm heading,
continuing west till I come to a full stop
and find the last house on the very edge of England.
I'm not the only time-traveller around our shores.
Fossil hunters pick away at crumbly cliffs,
hoping to prise out a prize specimen
from the age of the dinosaurs
Our coast remembers a time
long before the big beasts of the Jurassic period.
We can go much further back than the dinosaurs
with a stop at St David's.
Today, this tiny city draws the crowds
because of its big cathedral.
But in Victorian times, the craggy cliffs nearby
were crawling with scientists,
challenging the church's view of the world.
Hermione is puzzled by the age of the Earth.
150 years ago,
our coast was causing a commotion.
Ideas about the Earth were evolving rapidly
thanks to Victorian naturalists probing the edge for knowledge.
One of the scientists who came to this shore was J W Salter,
a palaeontologist working
for the British Geological Survey.
In 1862, Salter's boat took a wrong turning
and he landed purely by chance at this rocky inlet near St David's
called Porth y Rhaw.
Maybe it was divine intervention that steered him off course.
Whatever the reason,
he made a startling discovery.
Salter uncovered evidence here that supported the idea
that the Earth hadn't just existed for thousands of years,
it had to be hundreds of millions of years old.
A literal reading of the Bible
suggested the world was around 6,000 years old.
Salter found a fossil that said otherwise.
'Dr Robert Owens knows that priceless fossil better than most.'
-So, Bob, tell us about what Salter found here.
-Well, he found these.
This one I'm holding in my hand comes from this very spot.
-This is enormous.
Imagine splitting a rock open and that's facing you.
What would this creature have been like when it was living?
Well, it's a distant relative of the crabs, lobsters, scorpions,
spiders - the arthropods, that group of animals.
This probably lived on the seabed crawling around
and it was probably a predator scavenger,
was probably fairly high up in the food chain.
How old are these trilobites?
On our present estimates, they're about 505 million years old.
505, so that's a lot, lot older than any dinosaur, for example.
Yes, over twice as old as the oldest dinosaur.
-Right back to the beginnings of large life forms.
This geological period they come from,
it's called the Cambrian, after...
After Wales, where rocks of this age were first recognised.
A truly Welsh fossil, then.
If there were to be a national fossil of Wales,
I think this might well be it.
The Welsh trilobite helped prove
that the Earth was old enough for life to evolve.
But the fossil found here also tells a remarkable story
about the evolution of the planet itself.
aren't only found in Wales.
Look at this.
This is a postage stamp from Canada
and the fossil depicted on it is a trilobite
and not only a trilobite,
it's Paradoxides davidis
and that is the very trilobite we get in Porth y Rhaw.
If you look at the rocks of Eastern Newfoundland of the Cambrian age,
you find exactly the same fossils in them, the same trilobites
including Paradoxides davidis.
How has that come about?
Well, we now know that
500 and more million years ago,
what is now Wales, what is now Newfoundland, were all located
on the margins of a vast continent called Gondwana
and this was about 60 degrees south of the equator.
So when the trilobites were alive in the sea,
Wales and that part of Canada were part of the same continent.
Exactly, yes. They all lay quite close to one another.
Hundreds of millions of years ago,
what's now Wales and Canada
were jigsaw pieces in one massive continent.
Over time they started to drift apart
and as the geological plates split open,
they formed the vast Atlantic.
This stranded identical trilobites on the coast of Wales and Canada.
And because of that, our quintessentially Welsh fossil
ends up over in Canada on one of their stamps.
Yes, we have to share it
but we got to name it first as we found it first.
It's remarkable to think
that this imprint in Welsh stone
tells an epic tale
of the birth of the Atlantic Ocean.
When it's angry, the mighty Atlantic pounds its fury most strongly
against the shore of Ireland.
Spectacular cliffs rise up to resist the battering,
eaten away over ages to create a fearsome edge.
For millennia, people have stood on the brink
and dreamt of what lies beyond...
..but the endless sea seemed impossible to cross.
The Vikings may have managed it
and an Irish saint's said to have done it
before Columbus conquered the Atlantic
and claimed the New World for Spain.
Now, in Wales,
they're planning perhaps the most remarkable Atlantic mission ever
from a base in Aberystwyth.
At the university,
experts in robotics are trying to teach a boat to think for itself
and sail itself to America without any help.
Their prototype robo-boat even speaks for itself,
-This is the autonomous sailing robot Beagle-B.
Beagle-B is the brainchild of Mark Neal and Colin Sauze.
In a race beyond the edge,
they're competing against the Americans and French
to cross the Atlantic remotely.
The idea is that she sails herself completely.
She has a control system, a small computer on board,
that adjusts the position of the wing and rudder.
She can work out for herself how to control where she's going.
But before they risk Beagle-B on the ravages of the Atlantic,
they want to try her on home waters.
Do you want a hand or are you all right?
101 things can go wrong when you try to build an autonomous robot.
Components fail, water gets into things,
cables break, errors in the code.
Magnetic anomalies on the seabed can mess up the compass.
This is one of the longest courses
we've tried to sail so far.
It's THE longest course we've tried to sail.
-The very longest?
-Yeah, by about a kilometre
-further than we did before.
-OK. That's exciting.
Beagle-B gets a helping hand into open water,
but soon she'll be on her own.
Once they press the button to launch Beagle-B's computer programme,
she'll be thinking for herself.
OK, Colin, are you ready?
-OK, start her, then.
Right, just starting the programme now.
Now it's doing strange things. Just a minute.
There's no action that it's moving.
Beagle-B's still asleep.
I ran the wrong command.
Just a bit of finger trouble.
The robot's re-booted.
-This is the autonomous sailing robot Beagle-B.
Yeah, she's free.
She looks good.
Dead on course, 10km to go.
West - campus heading.
-Now she's master of her own destiny.
Beagle-B's computer brain adjusts the carbon fibre sail
-and the rudder.
-The relative wind direction is...
-A human wouldn't be able to do any better.
-So we're pretty happy.
Nothing's broken yet, either, which is always good.
They're not controlling her,
just monitoring her every move.
The sail position at...two.
The rudder position at...zero.
Hopefully, this success will launch a new era.
One day, a robot boat might sail herself over the horizon
and never look back.
Adventures beyond the edge
to cross wild oceans
have inspired engineers to greatness.
One such story of a mighty ship
lies forgotten in the mud of the Mersey at Liverpool.
Mark is here to give an old friend
the send-off she deserves.
A little while ago,
I was part of a remarkable discovery.
Hang on, there's a trowel for you.
Isn't that wonderful?
There it is...
as fresh as it comes!
from a mighty ship scrapped here over 100 years ago.
The Great Eastern was once the largest vessel on earth.
She was built for non-stop passage to Australia,
but ended up being sold off
as a floating billboard,
before being broken up.
But I won't let the old girl die in such disgrace.
Before she ended her life here in the mud
on the banks of the Mersey,
she was responsible for one of the great engineering triumphs
of the 19th century.
It's a story that's seldom told, until now!
This great ship launched the information age.
It's a dazzling tale of astonishing audacity.
Her mission -
to lay a telegraph cable across the entire Atlantic,
to send messages from continent to continent.
This is the story of how the Great Eastern
wired Britain to America.
MUSIC: "Star Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key
The celebrations for the Transatlantic cable were sweet,
because of the failures that went before.
Messages used to travel
at the speed of sail.
Then, in 1858,
after an extraordinary effort,
the first telegraph cable
was stretched across the Atlantic seabed.
In an age before the telephone,
the new wire promised to send Morse Code messages
But as soon as they began transmitting,
there was trouble.
The electrical messages were getting weaker and weaker.
The first telegraph cable was dying.
Cassie Newland, from Bristol University,
is here to show me what went wrong.
What they've got is a very badly insulated cable.
They've got little manufacturing defects
because they're inventing it as they go along,
and tiny little faults are appearing and interfering with the signal.
And as a layman, what I would have thought is,
just put more power down the wire.
And that's exactly what they did.
At one point, they're putting 2,000 volts down the wire.
So we can do something like 24 volts,
so off we go, look, it burns a lot more brightly.
What you are now doing,
is making those faults worse and worse,
with this big hefty voltage that's going down the cable,
until finally, it just shorts.
And look, our light's gone out.
So how long did it actually last for, this cable?
-How much did it cost?
By 1866, they were ready to try again,
with a new design.
To lay the first cable,
they had to use two vessels -
the weight of the wire was too massive for one alone.
What they really needed was one big ship
capable of carrying 2,000 miles of Atlantic cable
in one go.
Such a ship didn't exist before,
but now it had been launched.
Only the Great Eastern could carry the new cable
in one trip.
She was five times bigger than any other vessel,
but this one is a little smaller.
This perfect scale replica is a work of Bob Abell,
who used the original blueprints.
You've got every detail,
-however long did it take you to build it?
-About two years.
You've got the rivets all beautifully shown on the side of the decks.
-This is the Captain's deck.
-There we are.
There's the cable.
And this is how it goes down the bottom.
I mean, this will be about the closest I'm ever going to get to see
-what she was like, you know.
-I think she's the only one in the land.
Can I have a go?
I never thought I would steer the Great Eastern!
You're doing a good job.
On the 13th July, 1866,
she steamed away from the coast of Ireland,
to cross the Atlantic.
Her precious cargo spooled out behind.
The Transatlantic cable was no ordinary wire.
This is the Great Eastern's successful cable.
-What's it actually made of?
-You've got a conductor in the middle,
if you see, there are seven little strands - all copper.
Then wrapped around that, you've got your Gutta-Percha insulation.
-Now what is Gutta-Percha?
it's like a tree sap from the Gutta-Percha tree,
which is a massive tall rainforest tree, growing in places
like Borneo and Malaysia, that kind of tropical forest.
It's a brilliant natural insulator,
it only gets better under water,
it was almost like it was designed for the job.
Just wrapped around that is jute -
the same stuff we make hessian sacks out of,
and then around that you've got bright iron.
The armour's getting laid on just up there...
That's the Birkenhead docks.
The copper's been smelted down there at Widnes.
So it's kind of ironical that the cable's are being manufactured here,
the very resting point of the Great Eastern itself.
Yeah, it's a beautifully circular thing.
By the end of July 1866,
the Great Eastern and her precious cable
after a voyage of 2,000 miles.
Over such a long distance,
telegraph messages were very, very weak.
Eight years before,
the first cable had blown when the voltage was boosted.
So they needed a brighter idea,
and this is where the story takes a very clever turn.
Morse Code messages usually communicated by clicking,
but the transatlantic signal
was far too faint to make even a click.
British scientist, William Thomson,
had devised a solution of genius.
His bright idea was to use a light beam,
which even the weakest electrical current could move.
At the heart of Thomson's machine was a mirror like this,
which made a small rotation
in response to the tiny telegraph signal.
This model of a mirror galvanometer
was built by scientist, Jonathan Hare.
So this is the magic device?
This is the mirror galvanometer,
which is an exquisitely sensitive way of picking up a signal on a cable, basically.
So it enabled signals to be sent in really low voltage.
How does it work?
So we've wired up the cable. It's going from the UK to here in America,
and if we press a button on the other side,
a little current will flow along here.
On the mirror are fixed two magnets,
and around the mirror is a coil of wire.
Now when that current flows in the coil of wire
it produces a magnetic field,
which causes one magnet to move out, sort of repels it,
causes the other magnet to move in,
and as the magnets are fixed to the mirror, it twists the mirror,
but the clever thing was he bounced a beam of light off that mirror,
and just like if you play with your watch, you know,
and you reflect the sun's rays from your watch,
you can actually make the spot move around a lot,
with very little movement of your wrist.
Here very little mirror movement,
will actually cause a big movement in the spot some distance away.
Now at the other end, in the UK, we're in America here,
if she keys... she's got two positions on her keyer,
one will send a dot, and if she flicks the switch
and presses the button again, it will send a dash,
and they cause the spot to move in different directions,
so she can send a dot and a dash and send Morse Code
and we can read the message.
Press a key on one side of the Atlantic
and 2,000 miles beyond,
a light spot bounced,
a miraculous method of sending telegrams.
William Thomson's invaluable contribution
to the transatlantic telegraph,
earned him a well-deserved knighthood.
MUSIC: "God Save The Queen"
The band struck up in celebration,
and the message was finally received
loud and clear in the USA.
MUSIC: "Star Spangled Banner"
With the cable laid,
the Great Eastern was gradually forgotten,
broken up on the banks of the Mersey.
But her legacy remains.
we've never been out of contact with America.
The Times newspaper said,
"We have become one country - the Atlantic is dried up."
My adventure beyond Land's End
is taking me to the furthest edge of the Isles of Scilly.
I've made it to Bryher,
the smallest of the five inhabited islands,
home to around 80 permanent residents,
and a couple of goats!
The name Bryher is from the old Cornish,
meaning "place of hills."
Over the crest of the final peak
lies the real Land's End of England.
Who chooses to live out here in such isolation?
I'm on my way to the most westerly house in England.
I'm sorry to bother you.
You probably get fed-up with questions like this,
-but do you live here?
Is this the most westerly house in England?
Well, I think so,
apart from next door's, we're all in a line.
Are you? And you've never figured out who's the most western?
-Well, I think we are, yes.
-You think you are.
-Where did you move from?
-We moved from Northamptonshire.
But that's right in the middle of England.
I know, I know, sort of countryside.
-Now you've come to the very edge of England.
And that's where my husband spends most of his time.
Look at that!
This is a coastal view.
-How do you do?
-Sorry about the intrusion.
-That's quite all right. You're most welcome to come around.
My goodness. This must be one of the best views in England.
Well, I can't think of anything better myself, yes.
Look at that.
# This could be para-para paradise
# Para-para paradise
# Para-para paradise
# Oh-oh-oh-oh ohoooo. #
I'm standing on the most westerly point
of any inhabited island in England.
My journey's completed,
and although it's quite wild and windy here,
inside I feel quite still and calm,
it's rather like reaching a top of a mountain.
The journey's over, there's no further I can go, and yet,
when I lift my eyes to the horizon,
you can see there's more to come,
the promise of something far bigger,
and I think that's the appeal of life on the edge,
it's on the cusp of another world.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Coast ventures to the farthest-flung reaches of the British Isles to discover the most extreme locations, lifestyles and challenges of 'Life Beyond the Edge'.
Nick Crane explores the exotic Isles of Scilly - 28 miles beyond Land's End, these are England's final full stop. On magical isles with a Caribbean feel, Nick joins the locals to attempt one of the most bizarre walks in Britain, as they try to wade on foot through the surging seas from island to island. It's a challenge only possible at exceptionally low tide, yet still the seawater threatens to swamp them.
To discover what life is like on this extreme edge, Nick visits the last house on the very tip of the most westerly inhabited isle. He pushes beyond the edges of Britain's history too, walking back in time to the Bronze Age, as the seabed reveals evidence of an ancient settlement, long submerged beneath the waves. Is this the site of the legendary 'Lost Kingdom of Lyonesse', said to be the last resting place of King Arthur?
On precipitous slopes, beyond the edge of Devon, Coast newcomer and social historian Ruth Goodman follows in the footsteps of the remarkable Branscombe cliff farmers, who for generations followed a hardy way of life that's now gone with the sea breeze. Ruth relives a day in the ceaseless toil of the last man left on these perilous cliffs, the aptly named 'Cliffie' Gosling, who together with his trusty donkeys made the steep ascent between land and sea daily until the 1960s.
Mark Horton explores the cutting edge of Victorian information technology in a celebration of one of Britain's most audacious engineering achievements. The titanic struggle to create the transatlantic telegraph service between Britain and America would eventually herald the birth of global communications, but how did Brunel's mighty ship, the Great Eastern, manage to lay a cable 2,000 miles along the seabed to transmit and receive tiny electric signals between continents? Mark and the team rebuild the ingenious invention which, in 1865, finally made the transatlantic cable a glorious reality after ten years of tragic failure.
And, on the dramatic rocky edge of St David's Head in south Wales, Hermione Cockburn explores the very limits of life on the planet to reveal the astonishing fossil of a large sea creature - one which lived 300 million years before the dinosaurs. This discovery helped establish that Britain and America were once part of the same super-continent, and that the Earth is old enough for Darwin's theory of evolution - once held to be on the margins of science - to become central to our understanding of who we are.